Bluetooth audio quality has made great strides over the years. You still need to spend more money for a high-fidelity listening experience, but the sound quality that today's sub-$100 portable Bluetooth speakers deliver is quite impressive.
Beyond solid sonics, a fairly common trait in the sub-$100 wireless speaker world is a rugged, outdoor-friendly portable build. Although you might be looking for something for your office desk or home bookshelf, many speakers in this price range feature tough, water-resistant builds that can take a beating on a hike and backpack-friendly designs so you can easily tote them anywhere. And that's just one thing to look for.
Read on for the best affordable Bluetooth speakers we've tested, followed by everything you should take into consideration before you buy one.
The Best Wireless and Bluetooth Speaker Deals This Week*
- Bose SoundLink Revolve Series II Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Opens in a new window) — $179.00 (List Price $219)
- Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Opens in a new window) — $160.12 (List Price $199)
- JBL Pulse 4 Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker With Light Show (Opens in a new window) — $199.95 (List Price $249.95)
- LG XBOOM Go PL5 Portable Bluetooth Speaker With LED Lighting (Opens in a new window) — $66.99 (List Price $99.99)
- Bose Portable Smart Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Opens in a new window) — $319.00 (List Price $399)
*Deals are selected by our commerce team
Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
Best Smart Speaker Overall
- As powerful as the Echo Plus
- Strong bass for the size
- Built-in smart home hub
- High frequencies don't get quite as much finesse as they could
- Alexa can still be awkward to talk to
|Amazon||$99.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Amazon Echo Dot With Clock (5th Gen)
Best Small Smart Speaker
- LED display more useful than previous model
- Convenient tap gestures
- Well-balanced sound
- Can serve as eero mesh network node
- No 3.5mm jack
- Limited frequency range
|Amazon||$59.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Anker Soundcore Mini 3
Best for Tunable Audio
- Quality audio performance for the size
- Adjustable EQ
- Waterproof build
- Clear mics
- Not for those seeking booming bass
|Amazon||$40.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
JBL Go 3
Best Small Speaker
- Rich, crisp, relatively powerful audio for the size
- Compact, easily portable design
- Fully waterproof
- No speakerphone
- Limited onboard controls
- Weak battery life
|JBL||$49.95||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Best for Sony Fans
- Gets loud for its modest size
- Sturdy, waterproof build
- Can distort at high volume levels
- Bass vibrations cause speaker movement across flat surfaces
|Amazon||$48.00||See It (Opens in a new window)|
|Best Buy||$49.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Tribit StormBox Micro 2
Best Clip-On Design
- Powerful audio performance for the size
- Fully waterproof and dustproof design
- Offers speakerphone functionality
- Approaches distortion at top volumes on some tracks
- Mic signal occasionally dropped out in testing
|Tribit||$59.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Tribit XSound Go
Lowest Retail Price
- Strong audio performance for its size and price
- Fully waterproof design
- Poor speakerphone clarity
|Amazon||$27.23||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Mackie CR StealthBar
Best Desktop Soundbar
- Quality audio performance at moderate to high volumes
- Real stereo separation
- Aux input, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity
- Volume doesn’t always adjust in real time
- Volume knob can unpair Bluetooth devices when set to lowest level
- Deep bass makes speaker move around desktops and causes distortion at top volumes
|B&H Photo Video||$99.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Can Cheap Speakers Have Good Bass?
Affordable portable speakers once relied only on the strength of tiny, powered drivers, but now passive radiators are the norm—they don't receive direct power like the drivers, but vibrate sympathetically with the output of the drivers to create a greater sense of bass. They won't make you think there's a subwoofer inside your small speaker, but passive radiators work quite well to create an extended sense of the lows without requiring more power.
Some passive radiators vibrate so powerfully that many speakers feature design tweaks to accommodate them, like rubber feet to prevent the devices from scooting across desks and counters. Without passive radiators, bass response in this price range would still seem rather weak, so if a little extra thump is important to you, look for a speaker that uses one. We cover this detail in our reviews.
What's the Difference Between Mono and Stereo Speakers?
It almost seems like some manufacturers are making more mono (single-driver) speakers than they used to, perhaps favoring the addition of a passive radiator to create stronger bass response rather than a second driver. This makes sense because if you stand several feet away from a small speaker with two drivers that deliver stereo audio, you won't get much real separation unless the drivers point in drastically different directions. Even then, it's not going to be a true stereo image. Many manufacturers are gambling on the belief that you're more likely to notice enhanced bass response from a passive radiator than the presence of stereo audio. They have a point.
However, they also want to sell you more speakers, which is why many manufacturers offer wireless stereo pairing of two speakers. The advantage here is obvious: If you connect two speakers to your phone (most likely using an app) and assign one to the left channel and one to the right, you can suddenly create a very wide stereo field. Of course, most of these speakers are more expensive than $50 apiece, so this route technically isn't an under-$100 option.
Do Cheap Speakers Have Good Battery Life?
The battery range for most portable speakers is a respectable 8 to 12 hours. It's always good to keep in mind that whatever number is listed in the specs on a manufacturer's website is likely the very best result you can expect. But if you play your music loud, for instance, your real-world results will almost certainly be lower.
Several speakers also have a built-in USB port for charging mobile devices on the go. This is useful when you're away from home and your phone or tablet is running low on juice, but charging your device also decreases the speaker's battery life, so there's some trade-off. The batteries in these speakers are often a fraction of the capacity of a larger dedicated battery pack, which you should consider as a separate purchase if you really want to keep your phone (or speaker) charged when you're out.
Waterproof Speakers Under $100
Waterproof and water resistant seem like interchangeable terms, but they're really loose slang for very precise measurements. Not every speaker we test in the below-$100 range can resist liquid ingress, but it's a far more common trait than in the past. Thus, it's becoming standard practice for manufacturers to list the speaker's IP rating (we address the mysterious "X" in a moment) in the specs section of its product page.
It's important to understand what a rating means rather than just assume a speaker that is, say, merely splash resistant is fine to submerge underwater. There are several levels of IP ratings(Opens in a new window), so memorizing them all is trickier than it seems, particularly when you start adding shock- or dust-proof capabilities to the equation. IPX7, for instance, means the device can handle immersion in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes or less, while IPX5 means it can handle the splash of low-pressure water jets from any direction for at least three minutes.
Now, about that "X" in the rating—there's some confusion about what it actually means. Technically, if you see two numbers after IP, as in IP67, the first number refers to protection from solids (often dust) and the second refers to protection from liquids. A 0 means it has no protection against solids, but an X means the manufacturer did not test the product against solids. In reality, the speaker most likely has some level of protection but hasn't officially undergone testing.
For more top-rated wireless speakers, regardless of price, check out the best Bluetooth speakers we've tested.